Anyone who’s caught Portland six-piece Abronia in a live setting can attest to the mysticism prevalent in the band’s tribal oeuvre. Lead by vocalist/saxophonist Keelin Mayer, the group harnesses ethereal psych flourishes and fluid atmospherics into their musical sensibilities, offering a potent aural wormhole that often leads to trippy results. Their song “Glass Butte Retribution,” from their 2017 LP Obsidian Visions/Shadowed Lands, occupies the kind of sonic terrain that lends itself to the alchemical, the magical and the astrological. As Mayer herself explains, the song was actually conceptualized while digging around for obsidian during a visit to Glass Butte in Eastern Oregon.
“I noticed the rock hounds that were searching for the precious Rainbow Obsidian, and they harken back to the early prospectors,” Mayer explains. “I imagined what Glass Butte had been like before white men began to harvest the obsidian from the Butte. It was said that the Butte had large sheets of black obsidian and it was a sacred place. Much of my focus for my music and visual art has the theme of eco justice or honoring the earth. I imagined the Butte to be a female entity and connected to the larger Mother Earth. How would Glass Butte get her retribution from the men who were exploiting her? How would she heal herself? How could she expel the male parasite that is stealing her life force?
"When I wrote the lyrics for this song I imagined the pain and rage that the Butte and women in general experienced after having their bodies raped or mined and stripped of their dignity and in turn their bodies becoming a commodity. The lyrics also evoke the image of the phoenix rising from the ashes. Ana Mendieta is a visual artist that was also an inspiration for the song. Her series 'Earth-Body Works' connects the female body to the landscape or the earth in which the art was performed. She used the landscape as a metaphor for female bodies.”
The video was directed by filmmaker Shana Palmer, herself an experimental artist under the moniker Sentient Beings. Palmer explains the video for “Glass Butte Retribution” was her first that she has shot, edited and directed in the eight years she’s been producing videos.
“Working almost exclusively in black and white was also a first, but necessary to give the music that Spaghetti Western vibe that Abronia's songs often conjure,” Palmer says. “I listened closely to the lyrics and tried to make a lot of my editorial choices to fit the meaning or the rhythm of the song. The transformation into color came later as we were about halfway through, when [I was] showing Keelin some unedited footage. We decided we loved the idea of the ‘rising’ of the sun to shed light/color into the story, because retribution isn't always about burning things down or destroying; sometimes the best retribution is about becoming the best version of yourself.”